Each year on the evening of December 31st an estimated one million people from around the world flock to New York City’s Times Square to cheer in unison as the final 10 seconds of the year are counted down and the iconic glowing ball is lowered down a 130-foot pole from atop 1 Times Square. BGR recently attended the Philips Ball Test, during which the city does a dry run of the ceremonies that will take place seconds before midnight on New Year’s Eve. We had a chance to sit down with Jeff Straus, the president of Countdown Entertainment and one of the producers who has overseen the event for the past 17 years, and Ed Crawford, the CEO of Philips Lighting, which provides the bulbs for the New Year’s Eve ball. We also had a chance to walk up and see the ball in person, and learn about how the whole process works from the beginning down to the second when a switch is flipped and the ball begins its descent.
AT&T will deploy Wi-Fi ‘hotzones’ to supplement mobile broadband; New York City, San Francisco first
What’s better than a hotspot? A hotzone of course. Yesterday, the nation’s second largest cellular provider, AT&T, announced a new initiative that will bring free Wi-Fi to large, populous areas. The move will, according to the announcement, “supplement” mobile broadband coverage in certain areas. “Following a successful pilot program, AT&T today announced plans to expand its deployment of AT&T Wi-Fi hotzones to additional locations in major markets, starting with the expansion of its existing Times Square Wi-Fi hotzone and new hotzones near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” reads the press release. “In addition, AT&T plans to launch its next Wi-Fi hotzone in San Francisco’s popular Embarcadero Center.” AT&T says hotzones will “enhance the broadband experience for AT&T customers” who live in these urban areas. More →
AT&T’s come up with a pretty novel solution to address its network congestion woes in New York City’s Times Square. Instead of giving its cellular network a much needed boost at the north central area of Times Square near 7th Avenue between 45th and 47th Street, AT&T has announced it will instead offer free public Wi-Fi to all of its customers with 3G smartphones, 3G LaptopConnect cards and AT&T High Speed Internet plans. Anyone with an AT&T 3G smartphone with Wi-Fi enabled with have their device automatically connect to the giant hotspot. Although it’s simply a pilot project, AT&T has said it will consider deploying free Wi-Fi to other busy locations across the US if all goes well in Times Square. Just promise us you’ll be careful crossing the street while playing WoW on your netbook, okay? More →
As part of its “DROID Does” advertising campaign, Verizon Wireless is teaming up with Google, Reuters and R/GA to take over Times Square in a promotion to showcase Google Voice search and the Motorola DROID, just like we reported previously. If you are in Manhattan for the craziness called Black Friday, stroll on down to Times Square and call 888-376-4336 to do a Google search by voice. Your query and local search results will then be displayed on either the Reuters sign or the NASDAQ sign for the world to see. Behind the scenes is a small farm of Motorola DROIDs that accept the incoming calls, process the Voice search and display the results on the big screens. Pretty cool! This promo has been up and running for a few select hours each day for the past few weeks but on Black Friday, the DROID will commandeer the displays for a full 20 hours. If you can’t be in NY on Friday, you can watch all the action via a streaming webcam feed. More →